The final “Lavi” (M-346) instruction aircraft recently landed in Israel and joined the IAF’s Flight Academy and the “Flying Tiger” Squadron. How did the jet’s arrival change aircrew instruction in the IAF and what is its influence on Fighter Division?
Tal Giladi | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Two years ago, the first “Lavi” instruction aircraft landed in Israel and was integrated into the IAF’s flight school. The Italian jet serves the Flight Academy’s Fighter Division cadets and graduates, in the stage between completing the course and joining operational squadrons, in OTC (Operational Training Course) and AOTC (Advanced Operational Training Course) in the “Flying Tiger” Squadron.
The final “Lavi” has landed in Israel and the first cadets to train on the aircraft have recently completed their year-long training period, which has been named the “Year of the Lavi”. They now begin a new chapter in the IAF’s fighter squadrons.
Raising the Bar
The “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron from Hazerim AFB, which operates the “Sufa” (F-16I) and the “Knights of the North” Squadron from Ramat-David AFB, which operates the “Barak” (F-16C/D) were filled by the first “Lavi” Conversion cadets, some OTC and AOTC graduates and some were the first WSOs to train on the aircraft.
“It doesn’t have a radar or missiles and bombs, but it simulates them virtually”, said Lt. Ofer, a WSO in conversion training. “As a result, we studied very advanced flying in a very early. As opposed to the ‘Ayit’ (A-4 Skyhawk) in which there were only basic instruments, the ‘Lavi’ has advanced avionics systems and raised the bar”.
Now, Lt. Ofer has begun his eight month long conversion training in the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron, in which he and his fellow cadets will acquaint themselves with offensive and defensive flying in an operational aircraft for the first time. “When you undergo all of your advanced training on one platform, you have time to study flight in depth instead of getting used to a new aircraft”, Lt. Ofer stated one of the advantages the advanced jet holds.
The “Lavi” jet ushered the IAF into a new age: its graduates that have just began their conversion training, have been flying in a jet with advanced systems, facing Air-Air threats and operational weapons from day one. In the first days they sensed the “Sufa” jet and its might, learned what the cockpit looks like, where they should place their feet without touching the stick and where the rec room is.
Not a week after arriving at the squadron and they have already performed their first solo in the jet. “Upon the arrival of the ‘Lavi’, the way WSOs are trained in the IAF has changed: we were instructed by senior pilots who knew to deal with substantive issues in regard to the work of a WSO”, added Lt. Ofer. “If in the past, WSO training was merely consequential, it is now focused on and it helps us better understand our position in the modern era and our part in the mission”.